Review: Christian Stanger
Photography: Dan Maynard
Between the scorching heat of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in January and the frozen tundra of Splendour In The Grass in July, our festival choices, in years past used to be limited to Bluesfest. Now we’ve got a handful to choose from annually and this year the bringer of the feast is Billy Corgan, bringing his The World Is A Vampire Festival to our shores with a massive line-up of musicians (and athletes) in tow.
As anyone with a cursory interest in The Smashing Pumpkins will know, Billy Corgan bought wrestling company National Wrestling Alliance a few years ago, and the man is on a mission to share his love of music, wrestling and alternative culture with the world through The World Is a Vampire Festival. The format differs slightly from what you would expect from a typical music festival, there are six powerhouse bands on the bill interspersed with three wrestling matches totaling over an hour in overall length which helps break up the day and gives fans more bang for their buck.
Kicking things off at Eatons Hill today are local lads, PistonFist who brought with them a decent early crowd, it seems. If not the biggest, PistonFist are definitely the beardiest band on the bill with facial follicles flying as heads bang and windmills churn during an unrelenting half hour set. Influenced by heavies like Clutch and Pantera, PistonFist have amassed a respectable following and they are all treated to a thunderous set from the Brisbane band. Rise Up and Dig In are highlights from those who poured through the doors early enough to catch the fellas. If you missed out, catch them around the traps. This is a band to watch out for!
All eyes are on stage as Sydney’s Battlesnake appear, but not in their gruds, for once. This time, they’ve commissioned a tailor to fashion religious robes and vocalist, Sam Frank has a head-piece with bejewelled horns that flop around as he headbangs through the chugging opener. The crowd are treated to a raucous fusion of metal and power rock. Frank’s evil priest trope is played up to its limits as the interplay between three dueling guitarists, a keytarist and bassist goes on around him through killer tracks like The Rotten Priest, The Battlesnake and closing behemoth, Nightmare King. Battlesnake need to be experienced live.
It’s an unexpected and odd moment at any festival when the crowd turns around to see the wrestling ring in the middle of the lawn, suddenly populated by muscly dudes in spandex. Plenty of action follows suit with live commentary, suplexes, kick-outs and theatrical trash talk. This kind of entertainment should be a thing more often at gigs!
Redhook are next up and prove without a doubt that vocalist Emmy Mack knows how to get and maintain an audience’s attention. She is the last of the band to her stage and immediately throws herself into her performance putting her body on the line as her band do the same. Musically, the band wear a lot of early nineties nu-metal influences on their collective sleeve with the Limp Bizkit bent fully realised during a mid-song interlude of Break Stuff which was rapturously received by the sizeable crowd assembled. The band’s high-octane set is well received and ends with catchy banger, Bad Decisions.
Amy Taylor from Amyl and the Sniffers looks like she might have just come out of the ring during the female wrestling interlude. She’s full of adrenaline, regardless and lets loose as she appears with her band in tow as they rip straight into a 15-song set heavily leaning on the breakthrough album Comfort To Me. The band is tight as hell, the sound is abrasive as you like and you cannot take your eyes off the scantily clad lead singer yelling out everything at the top of her lungs and dancing like… like… nothing else I’ve ever seen.
This is modern Australian punk. Like or love it, this ball of short, fast and loud energy toured the world last year and from all accounts, they’re not out of steam. Hertz is a certified crowd-pleaser and destined for annals of Australian classics. The band tear through it, and close things out with the bass-driven, short, punchy GFY.
Perry Ferrell may be 64 years old but Goddamn can he strut the stage and belt out a tune. Jane’s Addiction come with the goods. It’s really Jane’s Addiction minus the vital component of guitarist, Dave Navarro, but the chosen touring member is a monster. Josh Klinghoffer, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and touring member of Pearl Jam has stepped in and almost replicated Navarro’s signature tone (albeit with a little more gain) on the atmospheric opener, Up The Beach. Without skipping a beat, the band ease into the huge chords of Nothing’s Shocking’s Ocean Size. Definitely the biggest and best-sounding live mix of the day.
Jane’s keep it old school with most the set pulled from the 1988 LP released way ahead of its time, Nothing’s Shocking, and the alternative classic, Ritual de lo Habitual with Perry’s anecdotes, asides and double entendre punctuating proceedings.
As the first bass notes of Three Days ring out across the lawn, the guy next to me chimes in with “This song is a fucking odyssey and I’m all about it!” And the musical journey begins and all the sweeping peaks and troughs from the original ten-minute version. Mountain Song and Stop! follow up and close out the show. Jane’s Addiction’s still got it!
“Welcome to the rock show,” Billy Corgan states to his adoring crowd who have waited many years for their return.
It’s only been 20 minutes so far and the band have already taken us on a journey spanning the career of The Smashing Pumpkins kicking off with stand-out track, Empires from their ambitious new album Atum, followed by Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Today and We Only Come Out At Night.
But this is a different Corgan to the one we thought we knew. This is my fourth time seeing The Smashing Pumpkins and throughout those shows he has oozed the teenage angst, misanthropy and disillusionment in the world, that his work implies. Tonight he cuts a different figure.
Corgan is in a jocular mood, bantering with bandmates and joking with original guitarist, James Iha, that he has created a lifetime of miserable music. There’s a sense of self-deprecation and fun about the entire performance. Corgan has got the band back together (with one notable exception) and is back to playing music with his mates and it shines through brightly as he interacts which them and his audience.
After an abrasive cover of the Talking Heads’ iconic, Once in a Lifetime and cult favourites, Eye and Ava Adore, Iha and Corgan emerge for an acoustic set with a surprising rendition of The Church’s Under the Milky Way Tonight before an understated Tonight Tonight. The band punctuate their biggest tracks from year’s past with more recent efforts, which are encouraged by a warm reception but there are certain tracks that without a doubt send the crowd into rapture. The triple-punch of Cherub Rock, Zero and 1979 drive the experience of The Smashing Pumpkins in 2023 right back to those teenage years as the wrapped audience throw all the lyrics back at the stage drowning out those on it.
This is a triumphant return to our shores. If this was to be the last time we saw The Smashing Pumpkins or Jane’s Addiction in their current formations (heavens forbid), let the record know that they’ve given those fortunate enough to be there, a massive reminder of what live music should be like and a fresh take on the music festival experience that audiences have been missing.
Well done Corgan and crew, let’s do this all again sometime in the near future!
Remining dates on sale now :
Tuesday, April 18: Hordern Pavilion, Sydney NSW ALL AGES SOLD OUT
Wednesday, April 19: Hordern Pavilion, Sydney NSW ALL AGES NEW SHOW
Saturday, April 22: PICA, Port Melbourne VIC NEW SHOW (moved from Hastings)
Sunday, April 23: Kyral Castle, Ballarat VIC
Wednesday, April 26: Adelaide Entertainment Centre SA ALL AGES
Thursday; April 27: PICA, Port Melbourne VIC SELLING FAST
Saturday, April 29: Newcastle Entertainment Centre NSW ALL AGES
Sunday, April 30: Broadwater Parklands, Gold Coast QLD
For ticketing and event information visit